Part 1 of a Conversation with Kit Maloney, CEO of O’actually

Kit MaloneyKit Murray Maloney is a colleague and friend. She has spent her last 15 years as an activist, advocate, academic, and entrepreneur focused on women’s sexual health. In 2015, she launched O’actually to celebrate genuine female orgasms in order to heal the world through a prioritization of women’s sexual pleasure.

She has recently added the service of working with women individually to help women regain their vitality and sexual energy. I highly recommend her! Check out Kit’s private coaching page, her website, and her really cool article in Mind Body Green.

I really enjoy our conversations about relationships, sex, and spirituality. So much, that I thought it would be a good idea to record one, and then transcribe it on my website.

So this is part 1 or 3. In part 1, topics of discussion are:

  • Putting the relationship first
  • Vulnerability
  • Individual growth in relationships
  • The importance of repetition

Putting the relationship first

couple therapy
Wired for Love, by Stan Tatkin

Kit: I just started listening to the first part of Wired for Love, and I am really into this concept of what I see as a triangle of partnership – where you have the two partners at the bottom and the relationship at the top. This was the visual that came to me when I was listening to Wired for Love. That [lack of triangle concept] is where I am seeing marriages break down, people don’t have the awareness or commitment to one another, or to themselves, that the relationship is more important than their individuality. I was like, “Yes!” In the foreword, Harville Hendrix walks us through what individual therapy has and hasn’t done – in terms of helping the divorce rates – and it’s really resonating. People are doing their own work siloed from the relationship, and not aware that there is even an option of putting the entity of the relationship above themselves.

Jason: Yes, I agree! For me, it’s such a simple concept and it resonates so well with people. However, when talking about our culture, our culture is independent, we are the wild-wild west – rugged individuality. The underlying message is that you need to solve your own neurosis individually and then come back together and maybe it will work out. If it’s not working out, then it is because your partner can’t meet your needs. It’s not the triangle concept you are talking about, where the relationship is at the top. That, you two both need to create the safety and security of the relationship for each other. The funny thing it that, ironically, when you put the relationship first you will benefit more. You will have more resources in the world. You will have more resources to slay those dragons (as Stan says) at work and you will have more resources to take on people who are unreasonable. Because you are not worried and preoccupied about: “Is my partner in? Does that person have my back? Is it safe?”

I think some people fear to give each other to the relationship 100%. Because you think you are going to lose your identity and autonomy. But ideally, you are going to have resources and freedom to be truly yourself. Stan Takin uses the analogy of the being in a foxhole together. You are providing each other with safety and security because you can, and because no one else gives a shit – unless they are getting paid. If you are an adult, your parents are done raising you and they are not expected to be there 24/7. You most likely don’t live with your parents – unless you and your wife are trying to save money to buy a house because the Denver housing market is outrageous now…

But the idea of being in a foxhole together doesn’t mean you two and block yourself out from the world. You have more resources to include other people into your relationship – you two do it safely where no one feels like they are losing. You have more resources to go start your business on your own.

Kit: Because you are not totally on your own, you have your partner.

Jason: Yes, two people working together are stronger. And that is what I see with some couples I work with, they haven’t yet rewired themselves and intuited and experienced the benefits of holding the relationship in this way. So blame becomes, “It is your fault why I am not getting my needs met.” Instead of, “We are doing this together, we are both going to meet our needs together.”

I know this works from my own marriage now, compared to my previous one.

Vulnerability

Queen in marriage
The Queen’s Code, by Allison Armstrong

Kit: OK, so Allison Armstrong said, “Nothing good has ever come in a relationship without vulnerability.

Jason: mmm

Kit: I have seen marriages approaching their 20th year fall apart because of the idea, “Well, I am not going to tell him that.”

And I say, “Well, you are not going to get your needs met.”

You can be vulnerable and get what you need, or you can get divorced. It’s scary I get it, and it feels vulnerable to open up enough to be relying on someone else, but otherwise you are not going to get the support that you want.

Jason: I agree, it’s like any primary or intimate relationship you have to be vulnerable. I know we were talking about individual therapy, but in individual therapy, you are not going to get much out of it if you are only going to tell your therapist how great you are. The purpose is that you are able to be vulnerable and still be accepted and seen. As well as assured that you are not crazy – that this is just human stuff. Everyone has their own stuff. And being able to be comfortable with a partner where you can open up and tell them anything is important for a healthy relationship. Like, “Do you two tell each other everything?”

Kit: That is a high bar. I think what I am present to as well is that whenever someone is judging – I can think of one couple in particular – it’s not true that he is safe saying anything he wants. Because she will judge part of what he will share. And that judgment – it is so clear to me – is coming from her inner judgment of herself of things she will not say. So, it’s that asking of why are you holding on to judging the other person? Because you are actually probably being really harsh on yourself with something. That’s where I think the individual, inner work is important. We don’t want to throw that out the window, but it needs to be held in the context of the relationship – being what the focus needs to be on.  For example, “How do I grow as an individual in support of the partnership?” Rather than, “I am going to be my best self and that may or may not include this person in my life.”

Individual growth in relationship

Jason: I agree completely. I wonder too if you have addressed the statement where one partner says to the other, “I want you to grow with me.”

Kit: I feel it is so good to face your own shit and do your own work. But, I feel like it is really unfair to expect your partner to be on the same pace of growth, or to do it at the exact same time. So it’s like, “Great, I am glad you are so much happier.” But can you image if someone said that to you 3 years ago, “You have to be more spiritual, you have to be more motivated etc.” You would want to punch them in the face.

Jason: [laughing]

Kit: So if you are saying that to your partner now, maybe give them some space to come to that awareness themselves, and maybe you guys aren’t always going to be on the exact same page with your work, but can you be patient?

Jason: Wow that is a great way to put it because that is the best way. It’s kind of like telling your partner they need to see a therapist.

Kit: Exactly, who goes to therapy and has a good relationship with their therapist when their friends or partner have made them go? [laughing] That person could say, “I am sure I would have sought help faster for things if you would have stopped telling me to do so!” It’s just human resistance.

Jason: I am doing it for the relationship – like you said – so I can be a better partner for the relationship. I am not trying to do a solo spiritual quest and meditate in a cave. Because what is the point of that? Don’t get me wrong, I am into Buddhism.

Kit: Yes, meditation has completely transformed my life, I love it. I want it to help me live my life, and not isolate in meditation all day.

Jason: Yes, to help you be more connected to others. Because biologically we are wired to connect with others. When we are interacting in a safe relationship, we can regulate each other’s nervous systems, and calm each other down.

Kit: Yes, I swear I am a better person with my new puppy (Lou). Because it is not just humans. I calm him down, he calms me down.

Jason: That is the spirit of intimate relationship – we will grow together. You grow, I grow.

Kit: That is all connected too. I don’t know if I have shared this with you, so my parents have been married for 42 years. And a friend of mine who is very close with them asked them a couple years ago, “How? What do you credit for a 4-decade long marriage?” And my mom’s answer was:

We made a commitment to always be operating under the assumption that the other person is always doing their best.”

I thought that was the most remarkable thing. And when I brought on a business partner for my company, I told her that story. I asked her if she would be willing to make that commitment for us in business, and it helps tremendously. She has stepped down, but I saw her a week ago, and we have so much love for each other. Often we would remind each other that [mom’s statement]. Because I knew at times that I wasn’t doing the best that she could do for certain parts of the business, but I was doing my best and I felt like she got that. So I think it works in business relationships and romantic relationships. That is the crux of support. In my friendships, I know that my friends are rooting for me and have an awareness that I am doing my best. And when we get into romantic partnerships, we get that snarkiness that, “So-and-so should be doing this or that.”

Jason: The, “If you loved me, you would do this for me…”

Kit: Yeah, gross. “If you loved me, you wouldn’t ever say, if you love me…” [laughing]

Jason: [laughing]

The importance of repetition

Kit: Something that is really important to me these days is repetition. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard – in particular women – tell me in the past couple years, “I asked for that once. I told him, he knows. He knows that that’s what I need.”

And I say, “Are you referencing that conversation you had last October?” [laughing]

“Yeah, you know exactly the conversation where I told him that it is really important to me that X, Y, Z happen.”

I say, “So it’s been 9 months and… no, no, no… this is not how long-term relationships work.”

The repetition of asks, the repetition of vulnerability, the repetition of the assumption that someone is doing their best. It doesn’t work for just that one month. It’s like, these are commitments that sustain the relationship. And for me personally, outside of a relationship, that awareness has helped me with my yoga practice and meditation practice. It’s not like I can meditate for a month and be done. No, you have to repeatedly do these things, you have to repeatedly look after you mind, repeatedly look after your body, repeatedly look after your relationships. And I don’t think we get a lot of that messaging in our culture.

Jason: You are right. It is quick fix culture. There is money in addiction. There are thousands of ways to keep you distracted and help you escape your current state of mind. You must keep coming back to your awareness to your practice over and over, you know, repetition.

So, back to relationships. This repetition is key. There is no design in our wiring as humans to be monogamous. Partners must continually work on renewing novelty and excitement in their relationship. One of the many quotes I like from Stan Tatkin is that, “Dating is forever.” Just because you are primary partners and are comfortable with each other, doesn’t mean you stop being lovers, and stop doing exciting and stimulating things with each other.

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